In the first edition of this book I incorporated a useful acronym from a North American article, which
M anages the relationship
O ffers mutual respect
R esponds to the mentee's needs.
Once again, views have moved on. Although the notion of the mentor managing the relationship still holds favour in some US companies, the wider global expectation is for the mentor to assist the mentee in taking over the management of the relationship. Similarly, when it comes to responding to the mentee's needs, it is no longer seen as a good idea for the mentor to be more than
The ability to
The mentor must be able to recognise the ability of the mentee and make it clear to the mentee that he or she believes in the mentee's capacity to progress within the company. The mentor must be willing to let the mentee
The mentor encourages the mentee through recognising the different roles he or she can play. For a certain period the mentor can be a reassuring
One mentor in a Civil Service department recalls how difficult it was to learn this lesson:
I had this
intelligentindividual who was highly motivated. I expected his progress to be extremely rapid, but was surprised to find that he seemed to depend on me for quite some time. I was worried about it and consideredwhether I ought to try to force him somehow to make his own decisions unaided by me. Eventually I decided to go at his pace and not the pace I expected. He is now at a higher level than me in the company, but recently came to me to thank me for not rushing him in that first year. He explained he had found it very difficult to adjust to his new job and had found the new pressure especiallyhard to cope with. Apparently, my support and encouragement had kept him going through it all.
The ability to encourage and motivate is an especially important skill for the mentor if, as we discussed in Chapter 4, the company has a
One corporate mentor explains:
We get so many MBAs coming straight from college who expect to race up the promotion ladder. Without a mentor to explain the system to them, few of them realise that this is just not the way we
operate. If we discover a talented individual, we allocate them to different areas of the company before we promote them so that they understand and have been directly involved in all aspects of the business.
A young manager in a small British defence firm emphasises the point with reference to the difference the support of a senior manager made to his career:
graduatedwith an engineering degree and immediately took my MBA. I then successfully applied for the position of technical manager, which had just been newly created, in a defence firm. I found my new job extremely difficult because I was dealing with engineerswho were obviously far more experiencedthan I and whose technical knowledge far outmatched mine. They plainly resented my presence. A few were even openly hostileto me. Fortunately, since my position was new to the company itself, a senior manager had been asked to help me as much as possible. He supported and encouraged me. Sometimes it was only this which stoppedme from leaving. More importantly, he helped me to recognise that my difficulties were not caused by my own incompetenceor failure, as I had originally thought, but that in fact the engineers' hostilityhad another cause and was aimed at my position rather than at me personally. He explained that the company had been trying to get the structure of the technical side of the company more into line with central management. I was just unlucky to be caught in the middle of a war between management and the engineers.
Armed with the knowledge that he was fully supported by top management, this young manager was able to ride the